Monster Trucks an 80s-Style Creature-Action Film That's Family Friendly

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MONSTER TRUCKS isn't a movie that was really meant to do well on the big screen, much as the hopes of Director CHRIS WEDGE (ICE AGE) might have been otherwise. It has good special effects, and a fairly decent budget, but it's the storyline that holds it back from being a box office success. But that doesn't mean the story is a bad one, it means it simply is what it is -- and about 30 years too late. The film would have done exceedingly well in the 1980s, as it has all the tropes of some of the best not-too-scary monster flicks of that bygone era. Think GREMLINS and E.T.

Tripp (LUCAS TILL, MACGYVER) is the lead of the film. He's the kid who's too cool to be social, too preoccupied with his family life to pay attention to his academics. If the film had been released in the 80s, he'd be Judd Nelson's character from THE BREAKFAST CLUB. He has no vehicle, and is one of the few underprivileged families in town that has not benefitted from the presence of the Big Oil company that drills nearby. He's the oldest kid on the bus because he has no wheels, and his divorced mother is dating the local sheriff (BARRY PEPPER) who comes across as something of a no-nonsense jerk initially.

Meredith (SUBURGATORY's JANE LEVY) is his biology tutor who struggles to get his attention. It's clear from her first scene that she (a) is a huge overachiever, (b) is too nerdy to connect with the other girls, and (c) has a huge crush on Tripp. She's an annoyance at first, but Tripp later has to rely on her when the adventure gets underway.

The crux of the film centers on the aforementioned Big Oil company that is drilling through a previously-undiscovered water table. The table is under too much pressure to support any kind of life, but when the drill penetrates, critters get shot through to the surface. Large, tentacled, petroleum-guzzling critters that look something like a cross between a whale and a squid. Two are captured, but one manages to get away, taking refuge in an auto salvage yard where Tripp does evening work for wise and kindly Mr. Weathers (DANNY GLOVER). When Tripp initially reports sighting a monster, the Sheriff doesn't believe him -- but the Big Oil mercenaries do. By the time they arrive to investigate, however, Tripp has already managed to meet Creech -- the name he gives the creature -- up close and in person, and finds that the big, wet, tentacled amphibian is a friendly thing that learns quickly.

Creech hides in the shell of the pickup truck that Tripp has been building, taking up residence where the engine would have gone before Tripp got distracted with his monster hunt. He evades the bad guys by using his strength and abilities to power the truck into motion. (The writers actually present this in a way that's plausible -- if you accept the premise of undiscovered giant intelligent amphibious creatures, that is.)

The rest of the film is evasion and rescue, as the company's head honcho (ROB LOWE, THE GRINDER) orders his chief scientist (THOMAS LENNON, THE ODD COUPLE) to dispose of the creatures at all costs to avoid a shutdown of the facility.

As I said, it's not really meant to do well on the big screen. But MONSTER TRUCKS is one that fits in perfectly on the small screen, watched by a family on a Saturday night with a big bowl of popcorn and a Monopoly board. If you want an old-school creature feature with action and a family-friendly presentation, MONSTER TRUCKS is just the thing.

Grade: 
3.5 / 5.0